Certainly a highlight from my recent holiday to the Amalfi Coast was my afternoon in Ravello. A beautiful town way up in the hills overlooking Minori and the azure sea below.
Ravello has a strong heritage in the arts and is known by many as ‘The City of Music’. It has a strong and vibrant cultural scene with the Ravello Festival and Ravello Concert Society. With my background in dance and a love of music and the arts, Ravello has been on my list of places to visit for many, many years.
On top of the arts and music, Ravello has captivated countless souls, inspired artists and filled hearts with passion. The views from Villa Rufolo out over the distant hills and the ocean can’t help but inspire you.
My visit to Ravello started with a bus journey from Vietri Sul Mare along the winding coastal road to Minori. With the journey taking approximately 35-45 minutes you pass through many picturesque villages and towns along the way. With the bus only costing €2 it’s certainly one of the cheapest ways to explore but please be warned. If you are anything like my partner Steve, who suffers from vertigo, at times it can be a little hairy! The winding narrow roads and sheer drop in places along the way could be difficult for you. I personally found all the SITA bus drivers extremely competent so rest assured you are in more than safe hands.
Once safely dropped off in Minori, Steve and I took time to explore the small touristic town. The Basilica of Saint Trofimena is well worth a visit. The beautiful church set back from Via Roma is a vision in yellow. Inside the decor is very typical of the churches in this area. Plenty of marble and beautiful painted alcoves await you. Another point of interest in Minori might be the Roman Villa. Ruins of a Roman house with a small museum next door. Steve and I didn’t stop in due to our planned walk up to Ravello but I hear from others it’s worth a look.
Crystal Bar, a coffee hangout for the local fellas on the promenade seemed a perfect spot for us to stop off for “due cappucini”. The sun was shining which was such a welcome treat. The weather locally had been very hit and miss so we soaked in the vitamin D whilst drinking our coffee with a view. We decided whilst supping our coffee to stop off at a bakery to get ourselves some local pastries to nibble. I had heard of the local delicacy, sfogliatelle so wanted to hunt one down in a local pasticeria . A shell- shaped pastry case filled with a semi-sweet custard filling flavoured with cinnamon and citrus. It didn’t take us long to find a bakery and luckily for us, we managed to snaffle the last sfogliatelle as well as an apricot crostata. Something similar to a jam tart made with shortcrust pastry.
Pastries stowed in my bag and caffeine in our veins we started our ascent towards Ravello. We followed ancient pathways spiralling up and up taking in the views as we went. The climb is steep with many, many steps so be sure to take water on a hot day. From halfway and further up water fountains crop up regularly so you can fill your bottle to quench your thirst.
There is a picturesque church to stop off mid-route with views to take your breath away. The breeze up there was very welcome as we stopped to regain our breath and cool off after the first part of our stomp.
Carrying on up the steps through little clusters of houses we finally reached our destination. The walk from Minori to Ravello takes approximately 45 minutes and is a 2.3km walk that is all uphill. The path is safe underfoot without any loose rocks or dangerous spots. I did it in trainers and a pretty sundress so you certainly don’t need any special equipment!
Once in Ravello, we made our way to the main square lined with bars and cafes where we took a seat on the steps of the Basilica to eat our well-deserved pastries. Sweet treats devoured we decided on exploring the town first. Ravello is not unlike any other touristic town along the Amalfi Coast. Yes, it has its gift shops and locally made ceramic shops but you’ll notice everything is a little more upmarket. To be honest, I am not much of a shopper unless it’s food shopping or thrifting so these shops didn’t interest me much. I just like to wander the streets to get a sense of the place and soak up the atmosphere.
Next stop for us was a refreshment break. We headed back to the square (Piazza Duomo) and Al San Domingo, a Bar come restaurant with tables outside and in. A haunt of many a star with Jackie Onassis saying that Al San Domingo had the best gelato and cakes in Ravello. If it’s good enough for Jackie O, it’s certainly good enough for us!
Spritz and a beer ordered we sat back for a good 30-40 minutes soaking up the atmosphere and watching the world go by. If there is one thing I love when on holiday it’s sitting in bars or cafes with a coffee or drink and watching people go about their daily business. For me, a highlight here were the cats. Both Steve and I love, love, love cats and wherever we go we hunt them out for a cuddle. We lost count of the cats we saw on our journey from Minori to Ravello when we got to 15! Yes, there are plenty of stray cats slinking their way around the square but they aren’t annoying. They don’t seem hungry and don’t beg. They don’t even care if they get any attention. They are just there like everybody else going about their own business and taking in the atmosphere.
After our drinks and a loo break (make sure you have a few 50 cent coins. Many bathrooms here require payment of 50 cents for use) we pottered over to Villa Rufolo. Originally built in the 13th century with many alterations in the 19th century this villa with its gardens is an oasis of calm and in my opinion well worth its small entrance fee.
The villa itself is beautiful but it’s the grounds and gardens that are the highlight. The views out over the coast are mind-blowing. I could have stood there for hours just gazing at the view. In fact, Villa Rufolo has one of the most iconic and most photographed views in Ravello out over the ocean and the towns nestled along the coastline below. One to two hours is plenty enough time to explore Villa Rufolo and I think the gardens would be the perfect spot for a picnic.
On leaving Villa Rufolo we bid Ravello a farewell and started our descent back down the steps towards Minori. We had decided to get the ferry back to Salerno, on our return so had just enough time for a gelato on the promenade before catching the boat back. I would recommend the ferry to those of you that might struggle with the winding coastal road but also seeing the hilltops and the towns from the water gives a completely differing perspective. Plus it’s fun! The ferry from Minori to Salerno cost €7 per person. A little more expensive than the bus but worth it for the experience.
On our return to Salerno, we made our way to the train station to get a commuter train back to Vietri. With it only being one stop away it was cheap as chips. Around €2 per person.
Hand on heart this really was a highlight of my trip to the Amalfi Coast and can’t recommend the walk to Ravello from Minori enough. Fill up your water bottle, put your trainers on and do it!